This weekend was the first sign that winter is over, and spring is truly on the way. The sun was out, the ground was dry and the temperature warm. Perfect condition. What would you do? Go climbing!
I arrived at the crag early on Saturday. The plan was to “warm up” on a couple sport routes and then climb a testing Trad Route. I roped up, prepared my draws and got on Drummers of Burundi 6b+. I assumed I would onsight the route as it was well within my grade.
How wrong could I have been? I almost slipped at the second clip then proceeded to get stuck at the first crux. I was lowered to the ground and my friend squeezed his to the next clip. We swapped again and I continued to get stuck at the next crux. After a bit of rest, I sent the route clean but I was already feeling fatigued. We climbed a couple more routes, by which point, my forearms were tight, and I was struggling to pull on small holds. Not what I had expected on my glorious return to rock.
To avoid the same foolish mistakes that I made, this is my advice for returning to rock.
Tip 1 – Drop a grade. Don’t do what I did and assume everything will be as it was. Drop a grade, drop 2 or more. Really ease yourself back into it. The last thing anyone wants is to get injured, take a bad fall or bruise your confidence. Get on routes well within your ability and enjoy the process.
Tip 2 – Focus on your feet. Finger boards are a fantastic training supplements but as the name suggests, they’re finger boards and not much good for training your footwork. When you are roped up and climbing at a local crag, really focus on your foot placements. Find the footholds and press into them. You are not going to last long if you campus your way to the top with your newly found chin up strength.
Tip 3 – Take longer rests. It is so exciting being back at a local playground. Routes all around, new projects to get stuck into but take your time. Currently we are only able to go out for local sport with 1 other person. This does not mean you have to be climbing the whole time. Enjoy the sunshine. Rest in between routes or you will find your forearms over pumped and unable to pull on jugs, let alone crimps!
Tip 4 – Stay safe. Refresh yourself with your belay device, do you remember how to take and give rope? Check your partner, it might have been a while since you list tied in. Don’t make a mistake now. Not everyone does, but we all should wear a helmet. It is so easy to dislodge a rock which could cause serious injury.
Tip 5 – Enjoy it. Remember, climbing is fun, engaging and challenging. If you are not enjoying yourself, maybe it is because of the above. Drop a grade, focus on your toes, rest and do it safely. Enjoy the process; tying the knot, clipping gear to your harness, checking your partner and flowing up the rock. You do not need to be the best climber at the crag to be having the most fun.